Pioneer Potluck: Our Home in Cache La Poudre Canyon

Cache La Poudre (Hide The Powder (gun) in French), 1964 -65



We loved the mountain air, pine tree smells, the sound of the Poudre River rushing down the canyon over the rocks. We did not care for the bull snake in the dugout cellar in the side of the mountain, the rattlesnakes and the mountain lion.

We had a nice cement finished dugout cellar right outside the back door. It was nice and cool inside and kept an even temperature year round. The only thing that resided in that cellar was a big bull snake. They told me that bull snakes a harmless, but a snake is a snake and I gladly gave him his space. I was also told that bull snakes keep rattle snakes out of the yard. OK with me, but I still watched out for rattlesnakes, especially with three fearless little ones running around.

My clothesline was about 25 feet from our back door running up and down the mountain from rock to rock with a big rock in between. It was situated so it was in a sunny spot most of the day. The clothes dried fast in the mountain air in the warm sunshine. About the third big basket of wet clothes that I hauled out to be dried, something caught my eye. It didn’t jump. It didn’t run, it slithered. There on the rock between the clotheslines, was a big rattlesnake. He was resting in the sun. I can pretty much figure out how to get rid of most anything but not rattlesnakes. I let him have his fun in the sun on his favorite rock and I hung out the rest of the clothes on the hand rail going up to the front of the house. From then on I carried a hoe just in case of my next encounter with Mr. Snake.

The reason for the hoe was because it was my mother’s favorite snake killing tool. On the farm we usually only had water snakes, garter snakes, garden snakes and little green snakes sometimes in our yard. Never, never did I see a rattlesnake on the farm. But we were always taught to look down when we were walking through the tall grass and weeds. I do this to this day even though there are not any rattlesnakes in the wild in Alaska.

First thing Mom would do when she went out the door was grab the hoe, and she used it like a walking stick except when she encountered a snake of any kind. My Mom would go into the “snake dance stance”— swinging the hoe over her head and chop and chop any kind of snake that happened to be around the house. After the harmless snake was chopped into little bitty pieces, Mom would make a trench alongside the chopped up snake, scrape the remains into the trench, cover it with dirt and stomp the loose dirt with the hoe until it was solidly packed down. I still smile when I see the image of my Mom doing the “snake dance stance.” She was a good teacher as I carried a hoe for protection from snakes too. I never used it like my Mom did though.

One of the purchases a few days after we moved to the mountains was a ringer type, old fashion Maytag washing machine. We had water that was pumped from the river through a culvert up the hill and into our house. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it had to be primed, which meant a trek down and across the highway to the river to prime the pump. So we were very conservative with water.

I borrowed two 50 gallon barrels from my dad, put them under the eaves of the house and caught rainwater for the washing machine and the kid’s bath. With a galvanized bucket I hauled rain water into the kitchen to heat and poured it into a larger galvanized tub for the kid’s bath. Many times when we had a warm rain I would give the kids a bar of soap and they would stand under the drain spout and take a rain shower. I also heated water for the washing machine on Mondays, of course. Wintertime was a completely different story as I hauled dirty clothes to the laundromat and dirty kids to Mom and Dad’s house.

I fixed up the cabins and rented one out. More later about what a mistake that was!

That fall I got a call from the hospital in Fort Collins, telling me they had reviewed my application and would I please come to work in the medical records office. Boy did that change our way of life!

I was thrilled about working at a hospital, but that made a trip up and down the mountain roads every morning and every night. That was OK in the summer, as we made many stops along the way to see the beauty of the canyon. The winter snow storms were the swirling kind that made you concentrate because if you didn’t you thought you were upside down or dizzy or both! My kids learned to be very quiet in the middle of a snow storm and usually by the time we got home, they were asleep. Not so in the summer time as one occasion sticks in my mind and theirs forever.

Being very tired on a Friday evening, after traveling back and forth each day, taking Gail to school, David and Susan to the babysitter and myself to work, then going to pick them up on the trip back up the mountain, a fierce argument broke out in the back seat of my old four door ‘54 green Chrysler (no seat belts!). Having told them three or four time to sit down and be quiet, I completely lost my cool and at the next turnout beside the river, I pulled over, jumped out of the car and told all three to get out! Screaming at the top of their lungs and saying we won’t do it again, I pulled all three kids out (poor Susan was only 2 1/2) slammed the back door and drove off – to the other end of the parking pullout.

Their scream echoed up and down the canyon as all three stood in a huddle in the middle of the pullout. When I stopped Gail took each of their hands and started running for the car. I got out and opened the door, they got in and I shut the door calmly. There was three little “I’m sorry we won’t fight anymore” as I drove off to our little home in the mountains. That lasted about two more weeks, and when an argument broke out, one would say, “Do you want Mom to dump us out again?”

Solved that problem the rest of the time we lived in the canyon.

Saturdays or Sundays we would go up to see our new good friend Marie Bean and play Yahtzee and eat her homemade ice cream sandwiches that she made from graham crackers and vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The kids learned how to count, add, subtract and multiply while playing Yahtzee with Marie. She was a retired school teacher and taught them very well. She lives in Fort Collins now and I will forever be grateful to my good friend that I have known for 48 years. Thank you my dear friend.


Next week, snow storms, bad mentally ill renter, horseradish leaves and truck drivers and stalking mountain lion.


Make this anytime of the year. It last a long time in the fridge.

Goes with any kind of meat and especially moose or fish.


Drain: 1 one pound can of sauerkraut

Add: ½ cup sugar and let set overnight in the refrigerator

Add: ½ cup finely chopped celery

½ cup finely chopped green pepper

½ cup shredded carrot

¼ cup finely chopped onion

Mix and chill in a quart jar. Keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.


3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix together with a fork and add:

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 1/2 cups cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat with hand mixer 2 minutes. Pour into 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350% to 40 minutes - frost with you favorite frosting.


Graham crackers either broke in twos or keep in twos-depends on how big you want an ice cream sandwich. Your favorite brick type ice cream. With a knife peel back all four sides of carton. Slice ice cream to fit size of cracker. Cover with another cracker. Wrap in plastic wrap (Marie wrapped hers in Waxed paper) and freeze until ready to eat.


Velma was the baby setter for the kids while I worked at the hospital. They lived across the street from our big brick house.

1 box of favorite cake mix

1 large box instant pudding mix – any flavor

2 cups milk

2 eggs

Mix for two minutes with hand held mixer. Pour in three round, oiled and floured, cake pans and bake at 350% for 35 minutes. Frost with favorite frosting. I sometimes put prepared instant pudding in between layers and frost with canned frosting. Lemon is very good but chocolate seems to be the favorite.


If this cake was called anything but “Prune Cake” it would be very popular. It is a very moist spice cake that is a good traveler to picnics and potlucks. It’s another cake that I think Marie Bean or my sister Ginger gave me. I have made tons of this and was one of our favorites along with the Mayonnaise Cake when we lived in Poudre Canyon.


1 cup boiling water and 1 cup of pitted chopped prunes. (When I first started making this the prunes were not pitted. That was the first chore when making this cake in my “other life.”)

2 cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

1 teaspoon each: salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg

1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup chopped walnuts

Add cooled prunes and the liquid to dry ingredients, add oil and eggs and beat 2 minutes. Pour into a 9 X13 oiled and floured pan. Sprinkle the following topping:

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons soft butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix and sprinkle on top of cake and bake at 350% for 45 to 50 minutes. I know everyone will love this cake. If men were around I called it spice cake. Boy! Did they like that “Spice Cake!”


2 cups applesauce

1 ¾ cup sugar

½ cup shortening or soft butter

1 cup raisins

3 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cloves

½ teaspoon salt.

Mix with a spoon until well mixed. Pour onto a well oiled and floured small cookie sheet. Bake 350% until tested done. About 25 minutes.

Mom frosted hers with powdered sugar mixed with small amount of milk. I have used the Prune Cake topping for this cake. YUMMY


My memories of baking for my family and friends will be in my memory bank forever!


Pioneer Potluck: About getting ready for visitors

Our summer visitors from the “Lower 48” get a peek at our home-style Alaskan living. We are always glad to see and greet them as... Read more